17th June 1940.
Rennes, Brittany. France falls.
I’m demoralized. Unsettled expressions fill the atmosphere. The wails of the lost souls, as they intermingle with the bleeps of the life support machine. The walls have accumulated the echo of this unpleasant melody. My thoughts are alarmed. Rancid, once lively figures covered with sweat now fuse together to stench the cold whiff of ward no7. My mind brusquely begins to over flow.
In this world of ambiguous slaughter, I begin to contemplate my existence.
What is my purpose?
What will happen in the inevitable future?
I’m not sure, but maybe a wonderful place. A place where the innocent aren’t harmed in the name of “war”…
(A young girl reveals herself before him: a civilian in harm. Her vulnerability moves him. She looks down to avoid eye contact with a stranger. She pants at the fresh gust of air that shields her unadorned, pale skin. The draft propels through the newly fangled hole where the door previously stood, transporting with it fresh air into the fusty hospital room. Timorously, she elevates her frail head. Her eyes were now the windows to her soul: remorse crams her being. Immediately he thought of Rosie.)
1th October 1938.
On an unsettling gloomy winter’s morning: the amber fog grasped the cold breeze while gathering in thick mists amongst the clouds in London. She thought it resembled the vague creases in her father’s army suit. The street lamps were faintly releasing light. The nearby Victorian windows exhaled a release of breath, as the frost tried to break through. There was a peculiar petite girl, sitting next to her father. The taxicab drove as if it too was discontented by the commotion of another assemblage of troops parting. The petite girl rested her fragile frame against her father’s broad shoulder. Rosie tried to ease her nerves, as her father held her in his robust arm. She gazed out of the foggy window, at the people momentarily passing by as introspective remorse filled her deep russet eyes. (With her being a young girl, one could not imagine witnessing such emotion on her delicately heart-shaped face.) This look could have been considered a mature look, despite Rosie being only eight years old. The truth was that Rosie always dreamt and often had unusual notions that she fount difficult to understand. The “war” and “the place” the soldiers visited troubled her the most.
Rosie remembered the voyage she and her father experienced in Bombay India. She reminisced the large ship, the children who joyfully played on the blazing hot deck, and the friendly young wives who laughed at the formal English tone in which she enunciated her words: “How do you do?” She began to ponder the ironic change of waking up to the warm glisten of half of the yellow sun in India, as it rose above the ever so subtle clouds that floated in harmony with the gentle breeze: to now be driven through a street which is as dark by day as it is by night. The gloomy atmosphere exploited her vulnerability, shifting even closer against her father. Rosie believed that her father was her protection from this world of the frightfully unknown.
“Da- Daddy” she murmured in a low, melancholy tone, and repeated “Daddy…”
“Yes my dear?” Captain Smith answered apprehensively, grasping her closer, concerned, and glancing down to her timid rosy peached face.
“What is troubling you, my little darling Rosie?”
“Daddy, is it this place?” Rosie sighed reluctantly, as if dreaming a terrible nightmare.
“T-this it, Daddy?” she babbled as if to reassure her doubts.
Sorrow crammed his face, as he tried to remain optimistic for his little princess: “Yes Rosie, my little dear, this is.”
He softly placed his arms on her timid shoulders. He could feel her anxiety penetrating through his palms. He wanted to reassure her, let her know that she is in safe care, not to worry and that she will be fine: but his conscience knew that war carried no certainties – uncertain promises were as good as lies.
“Darling, remember if you feel alone call on your angel, your angel will always be here when I’m away”, he said in a reassuring tone. Rosie’s eyes widened with hope and settled down, as if the word “angel” pacified her anxiety.
Throughout Rosie’s short lifespan, only one idea troubled her little mind; the new home where she would have to stay without her father. It had been a few years since he began to prepare her for “that place” as she always referred to it. Rosie’s striking father was the sole relation she had in this confusing world of hers. The jagged cobbles caused the taxicab to jolt – separating Rosie and her father every now and again. Rosie was aware that she wouldn’t be able to stay in India, as she did throughout her early childhood. She would have to move to England. Although she had heard of this: the endless letters sent between soldiers and their children abroad, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness.
“Daddy, can’t you stay with me?” he remembered her asking when she was seven years old, while sitting on their iridescent balcony in Bombay. A sudden and overwhelming feeling of sadness encompassed his body. Captain Smith’s once sturdy body, was now on the verge of becoming a fragile deteriorating mess. He contemplated fighting for the British Expeditionary Force.
Captain Smith answered briskly with a response that he wasn’t certain of:
“Rosie. My dear, this won’t be for long.”
June 20th 1940.
(Nightly I have the same dream. Scorched soldiers with guns in their grasp. Wildly charging. Boom … an explosion. They still wanted to strike, massacre helpless civilians. I shot them. I had to. I had to save the innocent – an infinite helpless cycle. I knew what they truly wanted was to give the people they loved a better life. I’m not sure what lies in the future, but of one: I have blood on my hands. I have bloody stains that will forever remind me of the enemy.)
1st October 1938.
Rosie’s face glistened with possibility. To be the leader in control of their home in Bombay, to housekeep the yard, sit at the very top of the table during his elite Conservative dinner parties, to read books to her dearest friends after playing chase around the yard: these were the riches that she desired. Rosie was not fond of the idea of going to “that place” and meet the young girls who lived there, let alone to live in London.
The taxicab stopped abruptly – as they reached the location. Rosie gawked out of the window, and stared at the intimidating letters above the bulky mahogany door:
“Mrs. Dorians: Boarding School for Girls”
“My little Princess, we’ve finally arrived!” said Captain Smith, attempting to make his voice sound jovial. He carried her gently out of the taxicab. They bitterly walked up the few stairs to the entrance and rang the uninviting bell.
(Rosie’s mind began to overflow with the imaginative stories she used to create. She began to ponder when she would sit on the smooth limonite flooring, beside the dancing fire as it ignited the room, and tell her father of these very stories.)
“I’m not keen on this place, Daddy”, she said almost certain of her remark.
“But soldiers don’t enjoy going into battle either, do they Daddy?”
Captain Smith broke the silence and chuckled at his little princess. He was exuberant, was never fed up or offended by Rosie’s unusual thoughts.
“Ah, my little Rosie…” he said enthusiastically.
“What am I to do without you? No one will be as funny as you.”
“Um Daddy… my words make you cheery?” probed Rosie cautiously.
“My dear, you are amusing that’s all.”
He replied, faintly giggling beneath his words, then precipitously flounced her into his tight grasp and kissed her at the top of her head. Rosie’s once lively curls drooped in repentance. Captain Smith stopped smiling abruptly as tears formed in his auburn eyes.
21st June 1940.
The nurses swarmed crudely directing their weary, tormented eyes towards me. I enquired what happened. No one spoke. My body began to twitch. The nurses were persistent in holding my arms down. My thoughts were contemplating the risk of something dreadful. The nurses struggling to sooth my seizure…
Hovering, emit-ting gleams of light.
“My-y darling… your a-angel loves you so…”
5th November 1947.
Rosie’s poem: Calling on an Angel.
What terrible “place” ignored my pain, as you suddenly went away
Disappeared the very core of you,
That concluded my existing days.
Your little girl is 17 now,
In my heart you will always stay
The day you “died a hero’s death”
The day you went away…
“Rosie. My dear, this won’t be for long.”
I hope to see you soon
Wait for me at the pearly gates,
And tell our angel we love her too.